Ed Yingling: Arlington Man Seems Born to Be Spokesman for Banking Industry

Article excerpt

It's difficult to imagine Ed Yingling doing anything other than pushing legislation through Congress and spearheading grass-roots campaigns to support the banking industry. After all, he came to the American Bankers Association nearly 13 years ago to be the executive director of government relations.

As a youngster, the Arlington resident, now 48, watched as his parents rushed through the hallowed halls of the Capitol. Both of them were staffers; his father even worked for the Senate banking committee.

"When I graduated from law school, I came back to Washington and worked for Senator [J. William] Fulbright as a legislative assistant," Mr. Yingling said recently. "When he was defeated, it was kind of natural to go to banking law."

From 1974 to 1985, he represented banks and other financial institutions before Congress and regulatory agencies. So it made perfect sense that when the opportunity presented itself, Mr. Yingling left the world of corporate law and went to work in a corner office at the American Bankers Association.

QUESTION: Can you imagine yourself anywhere else?

ANSWER: It's been very interesting. We've been through a period, particularly in the late '80s and early '90s, because of the savings and loan crisis and concerns about the banking industry, that was extremely hard. There were crises coming over the wall literally every day for a period of four to five years. So there was a very tough period in there. Things are much better today. Banks are doing well, the industry is very united. We just had our big meeting and had a unanimous vote of this very complex legislation, which sends a real signal that the industry's united. So the answer is that I'm glad now, but there were some very difficult years.

Q: When did you start to see a light at the end of the tunnel?

A: Two Congresses ago when we were able to pass a regulatory-relief bill that people had said we didn't have a chance to pass. We're still living under some of the clouds of the S&L crisis, but that showed finally that the attitude was changing and there was a recognition that the Congress may have gone too far in terms of regulatory birth. Since then, we've been fairly successful with our agendas.

Q: What do you consider your biggest challenge?

A: The biggest overall challenge is trying to build a system, if you will, that can be effective throughout the process. The beginning of that process is building a consensus within the industry, because when the industry is united, we have a very strong grass-roots capability. And I think that we have been successful in building a system that enables us to build [such a consensus]. That includes working very closely with the state associations, with various banker groups, to build from the ground up and get ahead of issues so that we have the industry united and with the position ready to go forward.

Q: What do you see as the next major issue to come up on the horizon?

A: We have two big ones right now. The first is the financial modernization bill that's been forwarded by the House banking committee. This is the biggest rewrite governing the laws not just of banking, but the of the whole financial system, since the 1930s. The other is we are engaged in a big fight with the credit unions. We really have two big fights going at once, which is not unusual for us.

One of the real challenges we have is that we have as many issues as anybody in Washington. Because we are engaged in so many activities, we finance so many activities, and all bills affect us. For instance, we're affected by environmental bills. We lend to people who occasionally and unfortunately, without our knowledge, pollute. If they default, we end up with the land. That's something we fixed last year - that they stop treating us as though we pollute when all we did was make a loan on it. That's just an example of how we get drawn into everything. …